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Bike Profile - Posted 1st September 2009

1966 BSA B44 Victor Enduro
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Paul S has only a short riding season to enjoy his old bikes, so he makes the most of it. After many modifications, his BSA Victor is nearly sorted - providing you have some butcher's twine to hand, of course...

A few years back, I was talking with my friend Dave, mentioning to him that I was interested in getting a Matchless G80CS. Those are pretty hard to find in the USA, and expensive as well, so he suggested that I look into the BSA B44 because he had a rough roller in storage. Sometime in the late 70s or early 80s, when Brit bikes weren't worth repairing, a lot of people would just junk them when the bike had problems. At that time, Dave acquired dozens of bikes and just stuck them in storage. Mostly Triumph Bonnevilles, with a bunch of BSA Gold Stars and assorted other items.

It's got 'the look'... 1966 BSA B44VE Victor Enduro

At any rate, Dave had a 'round barrel' B44VE stashed away, and he quoted a reasonable figure to have it fixed up. As you can see from the photos, it turned out quite nicely, although it is in a decidedly non-stock condition.

I asked that the tank be painted blue rather than the original yellow. I also asked for the Gold Star badge rather than the original winged BSA emblem. Dave found somebody to hand-letter '441 Victor' in the star. Dave also knew somebody with an original trials seat, so he borrowed it to have the seat duplicated, rather than use the original long-ish seat.

Hand-lettered tank badge. Nice... 1966 BSA B44 Victor Enduro

My bike has electronic ignition, with the modern rectifier and other electronics mounted on an aluminium plate sitting under the seat. I'm not sure what brand the ignition is, but it has a capacitor system built-in so that a battery isn't needed. However, a very small battery is mounted under the seat, with a switch, so that the electronic ignition is 'live' immediately. Now that I know what I'm doing, I can generally start it on the first or second kick.

You can also see that this has the off-road forks. Dave also has the original style forks, but I was wanting to play up the off-road look. Rather than use the large original headlight, I just found a driving light used by the 4x4 truck crowd. Not very social, and not exactly legal, it at least satisfies the need to have daytime lights on. Mostly, the police are pretty tolerant of older machines that don't really satisfy the law, so long as they look like they are taken care of.

Inappropriate headlight, Tiger Cub speedo, Ducati Hypermotard in garage... 1966 BSA B44 Victor Enduro

The photos reveal just how inappropriate this light is, but at least it is something to satisfy the daytime light laws in the US. One evening I was heading out to meet a friend for dinner, and as I pushed my Ducati out of the garage it felt really heavy. My initial thought was that I've been getting too used to the light BSA, but I then I found out that I picked up a screw in the rear tyre. Since I was already togged up to ride, I decided to take the BSA out instead. Because there are no turn signals, this is only legal for daylight riding… but after dinner my friend and I went to a coffee shop to talk until they closed at 11pm.

That was the first time I forgot to switch the battery on, so it took 6-7 kicks to get it started. Because this light is not a proper headlight, I noticed that it would shine directly into oncoming traffic. At stop lights, I could see the light shining directly into the rear-view mirror of the car in front, so I had to turn the handlebars to shine the light off to the side while we waited for the red light to change. I had to take a bridge over the river to get home, and I have to say that I've never had an easier time reading the overhead direction signs on the bridge! After I got home, I bent the light mount downwards a bit, so that even though there is still a great deal of scatter upwards, at least the main beam isn't into other driver's eyes.

Headlight works for me, speedo doesn't... 1966 BSA B44 Victor Enduro

Rather than use the original (large) speedo, I had Dave get me a Tiger Cub speedo. The mounting points aren't the same as the original speedo, and the cable had problems clearing the headlight because the light was pushed back so far within the forks. I ended up mounting the speedo on a bit of bar stock, and then used some aluminium tubes as spacers to lift the speedo 'bar' slightly, and that was enough to give me clearance on the speedo cable. I sort of like the way that the aluminium spacers echo the look of the fork tubes and the speedo cable ferrule.

I have the front mudguard, but took it off. When I was taking these photos, I saw that I needed to put in a few more restraining ties to keep the speedo cable from rubbing against the front tyre. I don't think that Dave was too impressed about my taking the front mudguard off, but it is all part of the look I'm after.

I'm thinking of having the rear guard shortened to enhance the minimalist look. I want to retain the lip at the rear, so I'll probably have the holes filled in and do the cutting from the front, and then drill new holes.

Rear mudguard; too long?... 1966 BSA B44 Victor Enduro

It won't be cheap to have new chroming done, but I think it'll look better if I could retain the lip. I would like to have the tail light moved a bit higher, but then it would not be parallel to the ground, so I'm not sure about that.

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All in all, this is a real riot to ride. Last summer, the bike was basically complete, but we were still waiting for the speedo to be restored, so I couldn't really ride it. I must admit that I had doubts then, because I just could not start it. It took me about 20 minutes the first time I tried, and I never was able to start it in less 10 minutes or so. This summer I went back home with newly found resolve and a stronger right leg, and it only took about 5 minutes the first time. As the engine loosens up, and I figure out what I'm doing, it gets easier and easier to start. A few times it took 6-7 kicks, but that generally happened when I forget to put the battery in circuit to energise the electronic ignition, and most of the kicks were just to charge the electronic ignition system.

I also am starting to realise what people mean when they talk about the vibration on these things. I kept looking to see if something is wrong, but everything looked right. It seemed to be getting worse the more often I rode it, but then I realised that I was riding it harder as it (and the rider) loosened up. After every ride I have to check to see what is falling off, but it is getting better as everything settles in.

Butcher's twine not shown... 1966 BSA B44 Victor Enduro

My first ride I lost the bolt holding on the kick starter. The second ride I lost the clutch inspection cover. I also had to tighten most of the screws on both timing side and clutch side covers. A few days later, the sidestand bolt loosened up, and the sidestand spring popped off. Fortunately, it didn't pop off until I stopped at a coffee shop and used the stand. I went into a butcher and asked for a bit of butcher's twine, and then asked somebody at the coffee shop to hold my bike while I tied the stand up. When I got home I had to lean the bike against a wall while I untied the stand. My wife finds it all quite amusing.

The BSA is also a bit loud, but fortunately my neighbour is pretty tolerant. You can see how close my neighbour's house is to my garage, so it is definitely a good thing to have tolerant neighbours!


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